Eagle boys score late to top VUHS in boys’ soccer: Mt. Abe has edge; both earn chances
BRISTOL — The Mount Abraham Union High School boys’ soccer team enjoyed advantages in shots, corner kicks and territory against visiting rival Vergennes on Monday, but needed a tie-breaking goal with 11:10 to go to edge the stubborn Commodores, 2-1.
The Eagles improved to 4-1, with their only loss to undefeated Division I South Burlington. VUHS fell to 2-2, but the Commodores’ only other loss came to defending D-I champion Burlington.
Eagle senior midfielder Nick Catlin, who scored one goal and helped set up junior middie Angus Schwaneflugel’s game-winner, agreed it took a while for the Eagles to find the net despite earning edges of 20-11 in shots and 9-3 in corner kicks.
MOUNT ABRAHAM UNION High School junior Kai Dobek knocks the ball behind Vergennes Union High School goalie Jeffrey Stearns and across to teammate Angus Schwaneflugel, who then scored the game-winning goal in the Eagles’ 2-1 win Monday. Below, EAGLE SENIOR NICK Catlin wins a ball in front of Commodore senior Bailey Smith Monday afternoon. Independent photos/Trent Campbell
“We had a little trouble today,” Catlin said. “But once we got to it, we have a lot of good players who know how to play, play really well, have a lot of possession and attack the goal really well. We finally broke through.”
Eagle Coach Mike Corey praised both his team and the Commodores, particularly their back line.
“We played well. I liked our level of intensity. Most of the time we were poised,” Corey said, adding, “Vergennes collectively defended very well.”
VUHS Coach Kevin Hayes cited his team’s grit against what he called “a good strong squad” of Eagles.
“It was a typical game with these guys. They’re always going to be tough, and we’re never going to give up,” Hayes said.
As well as good defense from his backs — including seniors Ben Kayhart and Samir Kadric, junior Jack Halpin and freshman Tucker Stearns — Hayes was pleased as the Commodores at times effectively countered the Eagle pressure.
“I saw some new stuff from some guys today,” he said. “The patience to work it out of the back is new, which is nice for our guys.”
The flip side of the Commodores’ ability to counterpunch was that Corey said the Eagle backs have to do better at picking their spots to step into the attack and being mindful of their defensive responsibilities.
“We had some bad moments we’ll have to clean up,” said Corey.
The Eagles launched six shots and earned two corners in Monday’s first 10 minutes, during which Halpin and junior middie Ezekiel Palmer both blocked shots and Eagle sophomore striker Silas Burgess launched a header.
The Eagles then blocked a Palmer bid on a corner kick struck by senior middie Lance Bergmans in the 11th minute. In the 15th minute sophomore VUHS middie Josias Salomao blocked Catlin on a restart in the VUHS box.
Shortly afterward the Commodores nearly converted a Kayhart direct kick from the left side. Eagle goalie Ethan Dewitt (six saves) made the initial stop as he collided with a Commodore at the far post, but the ball popped to VUHS senior striker Ethan Sausville. Sausville tried for the lower right corner, but the prone Dewitt kicked the ball aside.
At 20:50 Catlin gave the Eagles the lead on a play that included a half-dozen crisp passes. The last was a flick from junior middie Owen Maille from the penalty stripe to Catlin cutting from the left side. Catlin left-footed a short shot inside the left post.
The Commodores pressed in the half’s final 10 minutes. Eagle junior back Ethan Venman raced over to stop Sausville at the penalty stripe, senior backs Will Schoenhuber and Jackson Counter each broke up Palmer runs, and a Palmer header hit the crossbar on a corner kick with two minutes to go.
“We had some opportunities. We took the game to them a little bit more,” Hayes said. “We didn’t do a lot in the first 20 minutes, but settled in and played better.”
The Eagles came out strong in the second half. Catlin just missed twice early, and senior middie Sam Paradee almost tucked in a serve from junior back Takumi Melchior in the 11th minute.
Then the Commodores countered. Kadric cleared an Eagle corner kick, and Palmer carried down the middle, fed the ball wide right to freshman middie Jonathan Willis as he neared the box, took the return pass, and left-footed the ball inside the right post at 23:35.
The Eagles answered, forcing Halpin and Stearns to block shots, and sophomore goalie Jeff Stearns (six saves) to pull down a long shot from sophomore middie Eric McKean and slide to stop Catlin on a feed from junior striker William Wright in the 28th minute.
Shortly afterward the Eagles earned a free kick from 40 yards out, and McKean dropped it to Catlin to the right of the penalty stripe. Catlin headed it back toward the center of the goal, and junior middie Kai Dobek headed the ball just as Jeff Stearns arrived. As they collided, the ball popped over them and rolled toward the goal, and Schwaneflugel bolted in to finish at 11:10.
Down the stretch Stearns denied Dobek from close range to keep it 2-1. The Commodores pressed, but Counter headed away a Kayhart free kick, and in the final minute a Palmer attempt to chip a shot in over DeWitt sailed just high.
Hayes, whose team will compete in the D-III postseason, saw positive signs.
“Hopefully we can progress in Friday’s game,” he said. “The game is slowing for them, which is nice.”
Catlin is optimistic because of the Eagles’ attitude as much as because of their skills.
“We really think about improving. The whole team just wants to get better and really hold high standards for each other,” Catlin said. “There’s a lot of competition throughout the whole team. We’re just trying to make each other better. It’s just really pushing the whole team to a good place.”
And Corey, likewise, is hopeful.
“I think they’re good enough to be really competitive with everybody we’re going to play the rest of the way,” he said.
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